NZ lagging behind in support for disabled children

Children with disability are more likely than other children to live in poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand – but it shouldn’t be this way, says Child Poverty Action Group.

“Should I have to start taking medication [for my anxiety] because there is a lack of resources, because there is a lack of support?” asks one mother of a child with disability in CPAG’s new report released today ‘Living well’? Children with disability need far greater income support in Aotearoa.

“Caregivers and their children should not be facing such despair,” says report co-author Jane Lee, who interviewed several mothers of children with disability for her Masters of Social Work research, and who parents a child on the autism spectrum herself. “Parents go above and beyond, often putting themselves in debt, but their children still often don’t receive the care or resources they need or are entitled to.”

In the United Kingdom, disability allowances are paid at roughly three times the rate in Aotearoa – and children with disability there are no more likely to live in poverty than children without disability.

In Aotearoa, the Child Poverty Action Group recommends an increase in the rate of support for children with disability, increased flexibility, easier access and better promotion of the support.

 “You’re never told what you are entitled to, you have to try and figure it out yourself,” one mother says in the Living Well? report. “Basically, I thumb a ride through Facebook and ask other parents what they got and how they got it.”

This lack of promotion exacerbates inequities and discriminates against Māori and Pacific whānau and families – similar to patterns of Disability Allowance access among adults. In 2016, in the predominantly Pacific, low-income Auckland suburb of Otara, four out of every five households with children with a disability or chronic health condition were unfamiliar with the child disability allowance and/or unaware that they could receive assistance from Work and Income at all.

“This lack of effective promotion is institutional racism and an indictment on our system,” says CPAG spokesperson Talavao Ngata. “If you don’t know about support, then it simply doesn’t exist.”

disability sector election forum moderated by Susie Ferguson is being held 4pm this afternoon [Thurs Oct 1] in Wellington, and will be livestreamed.

 Living Well? recommendations include several CPAG election priorities, including: 

  • Increasing the base Child Disability Allowance and then set it at a variable rate according to severity of disability. 
  • Promoting and increasing access to various supports for children with disability, for groups who currently have low access, particularly Māori and Pacific people. 
  • Increasing the OSCAR subsidy rate for those children who receive the Child Disability Allowance. 
  • Immediately replacing the Carer Support subsidy with the ‘I Choose’ programme as was initially scheduled for 2019, thus enabling carers to manage their own respite through lump sum payments and to choose a respite option that suits their own whānau circumstances. 

Living Well? as a Word document

Living Well? as a large-print Word document

Living Well? as a PDF

Authors: Caitlin Neuwelt-Kearns, Sam Murray, Dr Jin Russell and Jane Lee